Security tight as murder trial gets started
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
6/19/12 at 8:11 AM
The process of picking a jury in the Neal Sweeney murder case started Monday with heightened security at the Tulsa County Courthouse.
More than 40 potential jurors were called to District Judge Tom Gillert's courtroom for questioning.
The selection process resumes and is expected to conclude Tuesday for the trial of Terrico Bethel.
Prosecutors allege that Bethel, 26, was the gunman who entered Sweeney's business, Retail Fuels Marketing, 3158 S. 108th East Ave., and shot him in the head on Sept. 4, 2008. Sweeney, 63, died the next day.
People entering the courthouse are subject to being scanned with a wand that detects metal objects, a device that was also used Monday by security personnel outside Gillert's courtroom.
A sign outside the fourth-floor courtroom indicates that a state or federal ID is required to enter.
"We have heightened security, slightly," said Shannon Clark, a spokesman for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.
Security at courtrooms has been strengthened in the past for high-profile or gang-related cases, Clark said.
Bethel's trial is open to the public, and "we're not restricting anybody unless they appear to be a threat or a disruption to the trial," he said.
Bethel is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He is the first defendant to go to trial in what police call a murder-for-hire case.
Five people were charged in the case, and two other defendants - Fred Shields Jr., 38, and Alonzo C. Johnson, 40 - face separate trials. They are each charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Allison Turner, Sweeney's daughter, said, "We are as prepared as we can possibly be at this point.
"We are so thankful for the community and their outstretched hands in support of our family during this time of unfamiliarity," Turner said in an email response to a Tulsa World request for a statement.
"Now it's time to move forward and put our faith in the criminal justice system, which we whole-heartedly believe in," Turner's statement says. "God leads the way and now we must sit back and pray. Pray for truth, clarity and for justice. Not only justice for our family, but also for the entire community."
World Staff Writer Nicole Marshall Middleton contributed to this story.
Bill Braun 918-581-8455
Terrico Bethel: Prosecutors say he was the gunman who entered Sweeney's place of business and shot him in the head on Sept. 4, 2008.
Neal Sweeney: His family says it's time to have "faith in the criminal justice system."